Thursday, April 8, 2010

Near-death experiences are not proof of an afterlife

Greetings.

Jewish date:  24 Nisan 5770 (Parashath Shemini).

Today’s holidays:  Day 9 of the ‘Omer (Judaism), Birthday of the Buddha (Buddhism), Thursday in the Octave of Easter (Roman Catholicism), Feast for the Three Days of the Writing of the Book of the Law (Thelema), Feast of St. Geronimo (Church of the Subgenius).

Worthy causes of the day:  “ColorOfChange.org:  Keep the Internet open” and “Save the Critically Endangered Mexican Gray Wolves - The Petition Site”.

Ketamine, made in Qutemol.Image of a ketamine molecule via Wikipedia
Topic 1:  “The Ketamine Model of the Near Death Experience: A Central Role for the NMDA Receptor”. This may go over the heads of many readers.  The gist is that the author, Dr. Karl L. R. Jansen, claims that near-death experiences (NDEs)—the whole light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel business—can be reproduced by use of the drug ketamine.  That is not why I am noting this paper.  Instead, I would like to note this fragment:
Unfortunately, some scientists have been deterred from conducting research upon the NDE by claims that NDE's are evidence for life after death, and sensationalist media reports which impart the air of a pseudoscience to NDE studies. Irrespective of religous beliefs, NDE's are not evidence for life after death on simple logical grounds: death is defined as the final, irreversible end. Anyone who 'returned' did not, by definition, die - although their mind, brain and body may have been in a very unusual state.
One might quibble with Dr. Jansen on the definition of death; clinical death, in which the heart stops beating and the lungs stop breathing occasionally is reversible.  But, yes, a near-death experience is an experience which one may have near death.  Proof of an afterlife would require communication from someone who is actually dead.

Note:  I do believe in an afterlife, but only because I believe in a religion which holds by the existence of an afterlife—not due to any evidence which demonstrates that an afterlife exists.

Topic 2:  More on current anti-Semitism:  “Return of the Living Dead” and “FT: Promoting Demonization & Boycotts”.  The first article deals with the recent claim that the Gazan boy Muhammad Zen Ismail Al-Farmawi was killed by the Israeli Defense Forces.  Reports of his demise were premature, as he was found to be in Egyptian custody after illegally crossing the border.  This is only the latest in a series of events reported by “Palestinians” which turned out to be wildly inaccurate and biased to make Israel look bad.  The second deals with abuse of the term “apartheid” to make it apply to Israel.  (Shades of Nineteen Eighty-Four.)

Topic 3:  For today’s religious humor:  “I think I’ll pass, but thanks!”  (And I very much doubt that is what was intended when they made that movie.)

Peace.

Aaron
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